New Mental Health Reform Act Can Impact Coverage for Eating Disorder Treatment
The Mental Health Reforms Act of 2016 (S. 2680) could have a huge impact on insurance plans for U.S. citizens that need coverage for mental health issues. That’s why so many groups are asking for your help, right now, to get it passed. Activists want to make sure that the American public pressures their politicians to take these important bills all the way to the Senate floor. If you think that your voice won’t count, consider these remarks, from Republican Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania: “What has made this work are the thousands and thousands and thousands of letters and phone calls to members of Congress saying that we’ve got to do something about mental health.”
What’s in it For You?
If you haven’t been following the story of the unprecedented bipartisan support behind this major step in reforming mental health care in the U.S., you might be surprised to learn about some of the positive benefits it will add to Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act. The new bills outline plans for these outreach efforts:
- Combat suicide in our schools and communities
- Increase early identification of eating disorders
- Ensure insurance companies respect mental health parity
- Provide eating disorders resources to the public
What Advocacy Groups Are Doing to Help
NAMI, the National Association for Mental Illness launched an aggressive grass roots campaign with letters, petitions, and phone calls to senators, representatives, and political leaders. Other mental health associations have made similar moves, along with social media campaigns designed to inform American citizens of the potential for improvements in mental health care.
Founded in 1909, Mental Health America is one of the nation’s leading community-based organizations. The mission of this nonprofit group is to “help all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives.” Committed to promoting mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, MHA is strongly in favor of supporting initiatives that include prevention, early identification, intervention for clients at risk, integrated health services, behavioral modification programs, and other vital services.
Need More Information?
To generate more understanding about what the new legislation will or won’t do for people dealing with mental health issues, MHA offers these details about the new legislation to help you understand any false claims you may hear when the bills are publicly debated by political pundits on mainstream media channels.
10 Myths and Facts About The Mental Health Reform Act
The bills are not the same as earlier ones, and there are some important differences.
While much of the debate on both sides appears similar to a year ago, the underlying legislation has changed, and this session’s proposals take a more balanced approach to mental health reform than did past proposals, emphasizing both stage 4 crisis response, as well as prevention, early intervention, and care integration.
The bills do not mandate forced treatment
While H.R. 2646 offers an incentive and funding for states to implement Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), it does not mandate any additional AOT. It also does not change any existing state laws that do not penalize people if they refuse AOT. States will continue to be free to spend their current block grant dollars as they wish, and also be free to choose any evidence-based programs to support with their new federal demonstration grant dollars, and any promising programs to support with their new federal innovation grant dollars.
Nothing in either bill will prevent mass shootings. But they will prevent tragic outcomes and the progression of mental illnesses from Stage 1 to Stage 4.
That should be our top “prevention” priority. Mental health care is not a solution to gun violence, because the correlation between mental health conditions and gun violence is modest. But people with mental illnesses do lose 25 years of life expectancy for a variety of reasons – violence, suicide, and complications from other diseases among them. Early identification and intervention is the way to prevent many of these tragedies, and these proposals move us in that direction.
These proposals do not diminish SAMHSA, but elevate mental health in the federal bureaucracy
That should be our top “systems” priority. SAMHSA has done a great job promoting recovery and the innovative services that make it possible during the 23 years since the agency was created. But SAMHSA has never been given the authority it needs to make sure other federal agencies are really addressing mental health. In their present form, neither bill cuts funding to SAMHSA, or repeals any of its statutory authority to promote recovery.1 Instead, both bills add in a new Assistant Secretary and an Interagency Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee, and leave federal law guiding SAMHSA in effect. In one approach, SAMHSA as an agency will report to the Assistant Secretary. In the other, the people of SAMHSA will be led by the Assistant Secretary. But a fair reading of both bills is that they ensure that in the future SAMHSA will play an even bigger role in helping the rest of the federal government better serve individuals with mental health conditions.
For those whose mental illnesses have already reach crisis stages, the bills will move mental health treatment and services (and maybe even dollars) out of our jails and into treatment and service programs in our communities.
That should be our top “treatment” priority. In fact, in its current form, H.R. 2646 calls on the federal government to create a plan to end the incarceration of nonviolent offenders with mental illness within ten years and use the savings to support community services for people with mental illnesses. That alone could finally empty our 21st century asylums (jails and prisons), echoing the efforts of our founder, Clifford Beers, a century ago. Even more importantly, both proposals call for millions of dollars of additional federal spending on a wide range of community-based programs – where new infusions of dollars are badly needed.
The bills are grounded in a sound public health approach
In public health policy, we recognize the importance of the prevention, early intervention, services integration, and recovery. We work to prevent premature disability and death from chronic disease. And we focus on making communities, as well as individuals, healthier. These bills are not “wellness only” or “non-medical” responses to mental illnesses. On the contrary, they move in the direction of treating mental illnesses as health, not safety, concerns, the same way we treat other chronic diseases, and focus on the causes, not just the effects, of mental illnesses – and provide money in innovation and demonstration grants for this work.
If these bills pass, people will get more than just triage when they go to the hospital
Some people think the bills – by opening up more funding for hospitals, too – will return individuals with mental health conditions to asylums. The bills do allow for some additional inpatient stays, which are often necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment plan development. But they do not allow for lengthy custodial institutionalization. Recovery must be the goal of all treatment and services, and we should support efforts – even modest ones – to make sure that people get the amount of inpatient care they need at the time, and afterwards they get access to the community services they need to prevent another hospitalization and thrive in the community.
Integrating health records as proposed in these bills will not let the police or your employer access your health information or diminish the legal rights of individuals
The bills allow for the sharing of substance use information in integrated health care systems. This sharing will not allow employers and police to see your health information and use it against you – the privacy rule in HIPAA already protects against this. Allowing information sharing is essential for safety and ensuring that individuals can get access to the care they need.
The bills will not force peers to be supervised by clinicians
The bills contain a report that examines best practices in training and credentialing peer support specialists who work in clinical settings. This report will be an important first step in ensuring that health plans will reimburse for peer services. Nothing about either bill forces peers outside of clinical settings to work under clinicians.
The bills will not be the end of mental health reform, but they do represent an important beginning to addressing structural issues and building out a continuum of care
The mental health system is deeply broken and underfunded. While these bills lay a foundation for reform, they are still only a beginning. Congress will need to build on them with subsequent legislation to ensure that our mental health system is most effective. It will still need to look at education and employment supports, for example. While it can be argued by both sides that the bills do not go far enough, we need to acknowledge that they go further toward large-scale reform than other bills have in a generation, and that “starting over” from here is just a euphemism for “doing nothing,” yet again.
So What Can You Do?
If your family needs better or more comprehensive options for eating disorder treatment, organizations such as MHA and NAMI urge you to call for action now on this crucial opportunity. You can also call or email your senator and urge them to support passage of this critical bill, they say. The Mental Health Reform Act has already united political leaders from both of the country’s largest political parties, but the American public must speak up to make sure that elected officials do their jobs, these groups remind us.
With official language that calls the legislation “a bill to address the mental health crisis in America,” the Mental Health Reform Act represents significant progress in addressing the need to expand coverage under the Affordable Care Act. It’s time to stand up and be counted, says the National Association of Mental Illness. You really can make a difference, these advocacy groups insist.
If Your Situation is an Emergency, Call Center for Discovery
The symptoms of eating disorders can pose serious health risks. Please don’t hesitate to call Center For Discover immediately with any questions at 800.760.3934. Call now and speak to one of our highly trained admission specialists today. Or fill out this form for a FREE assessment. All calls are completely FREE and strictly confidential. Center for Discovery’s integrated and personalized behavior modification programs offer years of experience in successfully helping clients and their families develop effective strategies for recovery.
Mental Health America: The Top 10 Facts About The Mental Health Reform Legislation. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
U.S. Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor & Pensions. The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016: A bill to address the mental health crisis in America. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
Psychiatry.org. APA Applauds House Passage of Mental Health Reform Bill, Urges Senate to Take Up Legislation. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
National Alliance on Mental Illness: Mental Health Reform. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
Contact Your Senator – List of contacts for the U.S. Senate. Retrieved August 30, 2016.